Thursday, October 11, 2007

Supreme Court Chips Away at BI's Perceived Power

I am happy to report that individual property rights are still alive in the State of Washington. Today our state Supreme Court issued an opinion striking down Bainbridge Island's moratorium banning shoreline structures which was found to violate our state's Shoreline Management Act of 1971 and found that the City of Bainbridge Island (BI) had no power or authority to enact the moratorium in the first place. It has taken the plaintiffs some six years to get through this mess, but the victory comes complete with an award of attorney fees to stifle some of the agony suffered.

Justice Jim Johnson wrote that, "...despite the clear violation of property owners' rights, the City embraced the moratoria as a means to refuse consideration of any permit applications, thereby deferring difficult development decisions." Additionally, he added later in the opinion:
The City's moratoria also violate the principles of Washington Constitution's article
XVII, secion 1 and the public trust doctrine. The authors of our constitution would be
surprised by the City's claim of power, as would the voters who approved the SMA.
(Shoreline Management Act, added)

Not to be outdone, Justice Chambers, in a concurring separate opinion, wrote, "I write separately in part to state in unequivocal terms my view that the City of Bainbridge Island's year after year renewal of a shoreline building permit moratorium was an act of a stagnant municipal government."

This just had to hurt. Take a few minutes to do an internet search on the workings of BI's government and you will see a body of government that is constantly finding new ways it seems to violate individual's Constitutional rights. They just passed a new ordinance banning election signs on the public right of way. Today the BI council received a slap in the face from our highest court and I hope it is a wake up call to that body so my friends that live on this bizarre but beautiful piece of land can start to see changes back toward the mainstream.

I am hoping that this victory for property rights causes new citizens to be bold enough to stand up for their right to free political speech under the First Amendment on BI and that someone out there is brave enough to continue trying to stuff the clown back in the box.

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